Flexible buffer between carton depalletizer and carton erector.

Swiss company Ferag AG is continually developing its Skyfall technology. One variant of the innovative overhead conveyor system comes equipped with special grippers for automatically feeding folded cartons to a carton erector. In the packaging process, the system bridges the span between the carton depalletizer and carton erector and acts as a flexible buffer between the two stations. The Ferag system proves to be very energy-efficient as well, since the Skyfall shuttles cover the route from one process to the next using gravitational force alone. The company from the Zürcher Oberland has already implemented its first pilot project for a large international brewery, where 250 shuttles are used to unload palletized cartons in absolute synchronism with feeding them into the carton erector. Moreover, the Swiss are seeing enquiries relating to other industrial applications that use integrated cartoning machines.

For packaging beverages, agricultural products and processed foods, automatic carton erectors play a major role and generally form a key element within a highly efficient packaging line. As its name suggests, this machine gives three-dimensional form to packaging cartons that have been folded flat to save space, or else shapes them from flat carton blanks. The resulting box can then be manually or automatically filled.

Highly automated environments are just the setting for a Skyfall system. Take the one that Ferag implemented as a pilot project for an international brewery group: here once more, the focus is on greater process security and fail-safety as well as across-the-board performance enhancement through automation. The innovative Swiss-made conveyor technology from Hinwil transports and buffers folded cartons with dimensions varying from 350 × 500 to 600 × 750 millimetres. The 250 shuttles in operation have as their load carriers a special gripper, capable of conveying one folded carton. The system feeds the carton erector 80 folded cartons per minute, with a buffering capacity that can be flexibly varied within a time window of up to three minutes.

Such applications also bring into play another advantage of Skyfall technology: Ferag customers save space at floor level that can be used for other purposes. Moreover, the Swiss system is very economical with energy, thanks to a design principle that allows certain stretches of conveyor to operate by gravity alone. This gives a boost to sustainability as well as environmental protection in production and packaging processes – another one of the reasons why further requests for comparable applications have recently been received in the Zürcher Oberland. The brewery plant demonstrates Ferag’s strength in every respect: complete integration of the Skyfall infeed station with the depalletizer together with the fully-synchronous interface to the carton erector has created a contiguous system that enables fully automatic flow of material between the two processes, all within the smallest of spaces.


Optimum coupling between two processes: Skyfall technology provides the ideal fully automatic interface between a carton depalletizer and a carton erector.


Industrial laundry opts for automation

Ferag AG is installing its highly flexible Skyfall pouch sorters at Blanchisserie Dumoulin, a laundry in the Belgian border town of Comines-Warneton that primarily specializes in laundering hospital linen. Set to go into operation in autumn 2018, the conveyor and sortation system with more than 12,000 pouch is one of the world’s largest in the industrial laundry sector. The system configuration includes five automatic infeed and delivery stations newly developed by Ferag. They ensure a very high level of automation, as well as increasing overall system efficiency. The Skyfall system will handle a daily processing load of more than 20,000 linen sets heat-sealed in plastic film. Each conveyor pouch holds up to seven kilograms.


More and more automation is the trend at industrial laundries, especially operations like Dumoulin that increasingly serve healthcare facilities. Among the underlying considerations are hygiene and occupational health: manual contact with the product by laundry staff is to be avoided wherever feasible. On the other hand, the logistical effort required for provision of services only indirectly contributes to value creation, so it is a question of keeping that effort as low as possible. What all this means for the industry is that in addition to automation of the laundering lines themselves, internal material handling and process-related logistics must be largely automated as well.

Innovative Skyfall technology, subject to ongoing development by Ferag and tuned for high efficiency, has everything it takes to extend systematic automation in the laundering process to intralogistics processes, too – fast, job-specific sortation as one example. Furthermore, the system demonstrates that this is possible even under the less than ideal conditions of an existing building complex. In a situation like this, the Skyfall overhead conveyor system shows off its full repertoire of space-saving tricks, here packing a 500-metre long circulation conveyor, eight batch lines, a sorter for handling up to 3000 pouches per hour, four 3D buffers with capacity for 3000 pouches each, and an intermediate buffer for 1500 empty pouches into the little room available. Continuing the space-saving theme, the free area under the 3D buffer is able to accommodate five automatic infeed and delivery stations – a further technical highlight of the system currently under construction.

Greater efficiency with automatic infeed and delivery stations

Ferag designed the automatic infeed and delivery stations specifically to Dumoulin’s requirements. At the infeed station, laundered and steamed packages of linen freshly heat-sealed in plastic film fall automatically into the pouches. After they pass through various buffering and sortation stages, at the end of the Skyfall line a tilting mechanism tips over the pouches so the items can slide out again. Small rubber flaps and retention flabs ensure that this is extremely easy on products. While each of the stations at Dumoulin will initially handle 600 infeed and delivery operations per hour, in other applications Ferag’s automatic infeed and delivery devices are quite capable of processing up to 2000 units hourly. The 12,000-pouch system still has upward potential that can be brought into play after it has been “run in”.

Blanchisserie Dumoulin, based in Comines-Warneton in the Belgian province of Hainaut, was founded in 1959. The traditional and innovative family-owned business has been run by the second generation since 1992 and enjoys a very good reputation regarding hygienic cleanliness and extraordinary services. As an industrial laundry, it focuses primarily on the healthcare sector as for example retirement and nursing homes as well as hospitals.